Liquor on golf courses among tweaks to Manitoba health order, but that's it for 3 weeks
Changes will be effect until end of April
It will be weeks before Manitobans see any significant loosening of pandemic health restrictions.
Manitoba's pandemic public health orders will remain largely unchanged until the end of the month, except for some minor tweaks announced Thursday.
The new health orders will allow liquor cart sales on golf courses and increase the maximum attendance at self-help meetings to 25. Those changes will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday.
The orders are being extended to April 30 because of increasing test positivity rates and the risk posed by more contagious coronavirus variants, the province said in a news release.
"We really weren't in a position to offer any broader reopening at this point, because of our slowly increasing rates, as well as the risks posed by the variants of concern that we see here in Manitoba," said Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin during a media briefing Thursday.
Waiting until April 30 will put Manitoba roughly four weeks past the Easter long weekend, by which time the impacts from increased transmission due to any gatherings over the holiday will have become apparent, Roussin said.
"We'll have a real good idea of the trend as well as the impact of that weekend. But, of course, if we saw things that were elevating the public health risk level, then we would make recommendations to restrict as required," he said.
The news comes two weeks after provincial health officials said they'd decided against moving Manitoba out of the red level on the pandemic restrictions scale, partly due to concerns about the rising number of variants of concern.
Holding off third wave
The second wave of the pandemic hit Manitoba earlier than parts of the rest of Canada, after numbers began to rise in the fall following the Thanksgiving weekend, Roussin said. Now, he says it appears that Manitoba is hitting its third wave later than other provinces.
British Columbia, for example, has seen record-breaking increases in COVID-19 cases in recent days.
Manitoba has seen more modest increases. On Thursday, the province posted its highest case count in seven weeks, as health officials announced one in every four new case involves a variant of concern.
On Thursday, health officials announced 40 newly detected cases of the more contagious variants, bringing the total number of confirmed variant cases to 339.
The spread of more contagious and deadly variants is largely driven by interprovincial travel, Roussin said.
"So that's why we felt it early on, to have those self-isolation requirements would be important to to delay any further spread of the virus," he said.
Restrictions on gathering in indoor settings — including residences and restaurants — remain important tools for keeping cases down until more people are vaccinated and the warmer weather reduces the risk of transmission, Roussin said.
"Summer is coming. So I think we should still have that sense of optimism. We just can't let it get out of hand in the meantime."
In the last round of changes, the province increased the limit on outdoor gatherings at public places, weddings and funerals to 25 people from 10, and capacity at retail stores rose to from 250 people to 500 people, up to 50 per cent capacity.
On Thursday, the province also updated guidelines for personal care home visitors, to allow for up to two general visitors to visit a resident at the same time outdoors, or one general visitor in a COVisitation shelter or designated indoor visitation room.
Visitors must wear a medical-grade mask, which will be provided by the facility.
In-room visitations are still limited to designated family caregivers, or in cases where a resident is dying.